A Guide to the Eviction Process in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

eviction lawsuit and notice to quit when evicting tenants

As a landlord, there are many rules and regulations you must abide by including the Pennsylvania eviction laws. When trying to evict a tenant and end the rental agreement, abiding by the law isn’t optional, it’s mandatory. 

There are many situations that can prompt a landlord to evict tenants and end the lease agreements. These range from nonpayment of rent to lease violations or a landlord tenant complaint. But regardless of the lease violation the tenant commits, a landlord must never take matters into their own hands. In other words, a landlord should never attempt to use “self-help” tactics as means to evict a tenant. 

Examples of “self-help” evictions include shutting down utilities, removing the tenant’s personal property, or locking them out. These are all illegal actions in the state of Pennsylvania just as they are elsewhere in the country. In order for the entire eviction process to be smooth, and avoid having an eviction lawsuit, court costs, or eviction hearing, it’s important to be very familiar with this law.  

For any tenant eviction process in Pennsylvania to be successful, a landlord must follow Pennsylvania law. With that in mind, here’s an overview of the legal process for evicting a tenant including what to do in a eviction lawsuit: 

Serving a Proper Notice

The Pennsylvania eviction process begins when a Pennsylvania landlord serves the tenant proper notice. There are various notices, each serving a different purpose including non-payment of rent, lease agreement violations, and illegal activities among other things.

Missed or Unpaid Rent

The landlord gives a tenant who refuses to continue paying rent a 10-day Notice to Quit. You must pay on the day that it is due. According to the state’s statutes, rent becomes late the day after it is due. Grace periods to pay are permitted, but they must be included in a specific lease term in the written lease or rental agreement. 

Pennsylvania process for lease violation by court order

After the pay becomes due, a landlord can begin legal action to remove their tenant by serving them with a 10-day notice. This written notice only gives renters 10 days to move out or else risk being evicted. 

If the tenant refuses to leave, Pennsylvania landlords can continue with the eviction process

End of Lease Agreement or No Lease

Landlords may also serve this notice to renters who are nearing the end of their written lease or rental agreement and don’t wish to renew. Besides a holdover tenant, this may also include renters on weekly and monthly agreements. 

For ‘at will’ or holdover tenants without a lease, a landlord serves them with a 15-day notice. For renters who’ve rented for less than a year, the landlord must serve them a 15-day Notice to Quit. And for renters who’ve rented for more than a year, the landlord must serve them a 30-day notice. 

Again, you, as the landlord, can move forward with the eviction proceedings once the period of notice ends. 

Violations of the Rental Agreement 

This notice is meant for tenants who violate their written agreement by causing excessive damage to the rental premises, having an unauthorized pet, and exceeding the rental limit. The specific notice period to give for lease violations depend on the length of their tenancy. 

According to Pennsylvania’s eviction laws, for tenants who’ve lived on the rental premises for less than a year, a landlord must serve them a 15-day notice. The same notice period also applies to holdover tenants. Renters who’ve lived in the rental property for more than a year must be served a 30-day notice.

If the person remains on the rental property after the expiry of the notice, a landlord may continue with the action. 

Laws and lease violations rental unit

Illegal activity 

This applies to tenants who’ve committed an illegal act like engaging in the manufacture/distribution/sale of controlled substances. In this situation landlords must provide the tenant with a 10- Day Notice to Quit which gives the tenant 10 days to leave the rental unit or else get evicted. 

Filing & Serving a Complaint 

Next, a landlord must go to the appropriate court usually a  magisterial district judge and file a complaint. Note that landlord tenant complaint form filing fees differ depending on the county where you’re filing in. 

Once the landlord files the complaint, a constable or a writ server will need to serve it to the tenant. The complaint service must be done in any of the following ways: 

  • By providing a copy to the tenant in person 
  • Mailing a copy of the complaint to the tenant 
  • By posting it in a conspicuous place on the rental unit. 

Court Judgment 

Once the magisterial district judge has issued the summons, the eviction hearing will take between 7 and 10 days later. In the event the tenant fails to show up for the magisterial district judge court hearing, the court rules that the landlord wins by default. 

However, if the tenant chooses to come to the magisterial district court hearing, the court will give each party a chance to present their case. The following are common tenant defenses in the state: 

  • A landlord used a “self-help” eviction process. Only a magisterial district court order can rule on whether or not a tenant should be evicted, and even after the ruling, only the sheriff is mandated to physically remove a tenant from their rental. All “DIY” remedies are illegal and if a landlord carries out any, they may be financially liable for any losses the tenant might have incurred. 
eviction process for unpaid rent under landlords lease or rental agreement
  • The eviction notice contained errors. An eviction notice must contain certain crucial information, like, the violation committed and the amount of notice the tenant has to move out. If any of this information is missing, the eviction may not hold and you, the landlord, may need to start the eviction process over again. 
  • The eviction is based on discrimination. Under the federal Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal for rental owners to discriminate against their renters based on protected characteristics. The characteristics include race, color, religion, gender, familial status, and national origin.
  • The tenant won’t pay rent because the unit is no longer habitable. As a landlord in Pennsylvania, you must adhere to the state’s implied warranty of habitability. If a landlord fails to do so, the tenant may have a right to not pay rent until they remedy the situation. In which case, as the landlord, you cannot then use nonpayment of rent as grounds to evict tenant. 
  • An eviction is a retaliatory act. So retaliatory reasons are required for a landlord to evict. Renters are free to organize or join tenant unions and make complaints to relevant authorities without any fear of eviction.
legal decision cases for rental agreement violations

Issuance of Writ of Possession

This is the final eviction notice to the tenant from a magisterial district judge which allows them time to move out on their own before law enforcement officials remove them from their rental unit. The writ is normally issued to a landlord 5 days after a magisterial district judge has issued judgement. 


Landlord rights include evicting a problem tenant. That said, it’s important that as a landlord, you abide by all the landlord-tenant laws, security deposit laws, squatter’s rights, and the state’s eviction process and laws. Doing so will protect you and your investment property. However, laws are always being updated which can make it difficult to stay informed. 

For help managing your properties and staying on top of all rental laws and regulations consider hiring the services of a professional company to manage your properties like DeSantis Property Management. Their team of experts will be able to answer any questions you may have! Contact them today to learn more about their services. 

Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for professional legal advice. If you need help, please contact either a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.